The Brooks leather saddles are possibly the most comfortable and longest lasting saddles of all time, given that you take proper care of them. Many people turn away from Brooks saddles thinking that maintaining them is too much of a hassle. But how difficult actually is the maintenance of a Brooks saddle? And what exactly do you need to do to take care of one?
Turns out that the maintenance of their leather saddles is not as time consuming as might think. There are only 4 things you need to think about – keeping the leather conditioned, maintaining correct tension, avoiding overexposure to water and sunlight, and avoiding damage and/or theft. As we will see in this article, doing all of these things is inexpensive, easy to do, and consumes very little time.
What you need to maintain a Brooks saddle
To properly take care of your prized Brooks saddle, you only need 4 items. These are:-
- Brooks Proofide
- A piece of cloth, or rag, or towel
- The small wrench/spanner provided with the saddle
- Some sort of waterproof cover
That’s it! Now let’s discuss what to do with these. The maintenance process itself is not too difficult either.
Being a natural material, leather is prone to losing its suppleness with time. Therefore, you need to apply something to condition it from time to time. This is where Proofide comes in. It is basically a saddle cream produced by Brooks and was specially made for their saddles. Without it, the saddle would dry out and start to crack. It also softens the leather and helps to speed up the break-in period.
How to apply Proofide
- Take a dab of it on your fingers. A little bit is good enough.
- Apply the cream all over the saddle so that a thin layer is formed. Make sure to cover the bottom and sides as well.
- Leave it for at least one hour. You could also leave it overnight.
- Take a soft cloth or towel and buff the leather surface to get rid of any excess Proofide. The bottom does not need to be wiped. Make sure to wipe thoroughly.
And that’s it, you’re done. After this, your saddle should have a nice, healthy shine to it.
How often to apply Proofide
In general, Proofide should be applied once every 6 months. But you should also apply it whenever you notice your saddle looking a bit dry. It is important to keep in mind that with natural leather, less is more. Frequently conditioning the leather can soften it too much and cause it to lose its shape.
Leather is a naturally pliable material. Hence, as you continue to use the saddle, it will start to stretch and lose tension. This can lead to discomfort, damage, and a reduced lifespan for the saddle. Hence, you should inspect your saddle carefully every 6-12 months. All Brooks saddles have a tension bolt under the nose. This can be adjusted using the wrench provided in the box when you bought the saddle.
How to identify stretching
You will probably be able to tell if there is any obvious sagging in the saddle by viewing it from the side. Another way is to press down on the saddle near the rear with the palm of your hand. If it flexes more than 5-6 mm, you will have to tighten it.
How to make an adjustment
Use the wrench to make a quarter turn on the tension nut. If necessary, make another quarter. However, be sure to not tighten too much, or else you risk damaging the leather. Also, ensure that only the nut is turning and not the bolt itself.
Protection from the Elements
Despite leather being a durable material that can last for decades, it is completely helpless against moisture. Overexposure to any sort of moisture causes the leather to lose its natural oils. Consequently, when the water dries off, the leather shrinks and cracks. Therefore, you should always protect it from rain. An easy solution is to just buy a waterproof saddle cover for around $10-$15. You could also use a shower cap or a plastic bag if you don’t have an option. Just make sure that water can’t get in.
Spray from the tires is also something to consider. This is why you don’t have to wipe the underside of the saddle after applying Proofide. It already creates some waterproofing. Nevertheless, you should use fenders to prevent the spray from reaching the saddle.
Finally, prolonged exposure to the sun is also not great for your Brooks saddle. It dries out the leather and significantly shortens the amount of use you can get out of it. Always keep your bike indoors. When that is not possible, at least keep it in the shade or cover up your saddle with the rain cover you bought.
Avoiding Damage and Theft
Last but not least, be careful of scratching or denting the saddle. One easy to avoid mistake is resting your bike against the saddle. This could damage specific parts of the leather. It won’t make the saddle unusable but it doesn’t look good either.
Since Brooks saddles are so expensive, they can be a target for petty thieves. The easiest way of protecting it is to run a secondary lock through the rails of the saddle and attach it to the frame of the bike. Alternatively, you could buy a locking seat clamp which requires a key to unlock.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Can I use any saddle cream for Brooks saddles?
Ans.: Brooks recommends that we should only use their own Proofide for their saddles. Technically, you could use other saddle creams out there. But we can’t say for sure if it will affect the leather or not. So, it’s best to just stick to Proofide. Besides, it costs less than $15 and one container will last for years since you need very little of it at a time.
Q2. Does Brooks provide any warranty/guarantee for their saddles?
Ans.: Yes, they do. According to their website, they offer 2 years of guarantee. Additionally, if you register within 3 months of purchase, it can be extended to 10 years. Which is great considering the price. The guarantee covers any problems caused by manufacturing defects. Note that it does not cover any damage caused by accidents or improper care.
Q3. How long does it take for a Brooks saddle to break in?
Ans.: There is no correct answer for this. It depends on a lot of arbitrary factors. Some people have reported that it takes a few weeks while for others it could take around 6 months. There are also those who have said that the saddle felt perfect right out of the box. So it’s difficult to say really. But one thing is for sure, eventually, your saddle will break in. And when it does, you will be able to ride on it for hours without any soreness.
Q4. Do Brooks cambium saddles require any maintenance?
Ans.: The cambium range of saddles by Brooks are made of a vulcanized rubber with a cotton canvas cover. These saddles are practically weather proof and hence, do not require any maintenance. Moreover, the material does not sag and they don’t need any tension adjustment either. The downsides of cambium saddles are that they do not look as good, and they are less comfortable than a leather saddle that has been broken in.
➥ Know more about Leather Brooks and Cambium saddles.
As you can see, taking proper care of a Brooks leather saddle is not really a difficult task. Also, it does not require you to break the bank. As long as you don’t get lazy and remember to follow the advice mentioned, your saddle should last you at least a decade, if not a lifetime. Brooks saddles are expensive, but it may very well be the last saddle you ever need to buy.